This is going to be long. You may as well go grab something to drink.
This, is about PVP. Specifically, PVP in Everquest. If you are not interested in some of the theories behind PVP, I won’t blame you for not giving a shit. If someone posted a rant on here about the wonderful dynamics of soloing in AC, I probably wouldn’t care either. This deals with some of the real BASIC theories behind the concept of Player Versus Player conflict, battle, and friction. Enjoy.
Ultima Online… Having gone through several stages of failed PVP and moderately successful pvp, and having failed specifically in dealing with mass killings, it has taken the coward’s way out and nixed the issue through UOR. Easy, certainly, but dealing with unrestricted PVP in any online environment not specifically suited for it is a very hard task. I can understand how they could have gotten sick of the issue.
AC. It is ok, truly good for some, truly bad for many. In between, for me.
Everquest. Started out bad, got a little better, got a little worse. From what I can see, though, Everquest, out of each of the games out now, has the most potential to be an excellent PVP game.
Why is this? Everquest, as an engine, can be changed sufficiently to actually become a real light hearted and enjoyable game based on the most direct form of competition; player combat. Its dynamics and tricks and quirks and very very hard-to-peel layers of strategic combat have a hard time thriving in such an environment. But they do.
Many players of Everquest, and it seems, the developers of Everquest, seem to find the whole theory behind the game set-in-stone. The Vision, many would call it, is as firmly stamped into the minds of many of the players as it is the Developers. And the way the Vision works, it doesn’t allow much room for PVP.
Now first, I challenge myself to two things. First, I challenge myself to state changes that could be made to the Everquest engine that would further accomodate PVP. Second, I challenge myself to further state how it would all work in an environment of practically unrestricted PVP. No level restrictions. At the most, religion/race restrictions.
I shall begin.
The way EQ PVP works now is based entirely on a few practically unchangeable solid concepts:
Level: There is no way anyone could kill someone 10 levels higher than themselves without incredible situational and class based advantages over the higher level.
Class: A necromancer *will* kill a rogue, and a Druid will kill a monk, nearly always, unless Level or Situation accomodates that rogue or that monk. This is one of the dilemmas that would never truly be fixable and would be rather a challenge to correct to a good degree. More content would have to be added to make REAL pvp class balance a reality.
Situation: In some fights, having the first hit can change the entire course of the confrontation… Attacking unseen from a hill may lead to an easy kill. Or, attacking a target that is currently fighting a creature or meditating will lead to a very short fight. If your target is outnumbered, unless they’re higher level or a good class, you have a considerably higher chance of winning.
Knowledge: This is a player’s personal skill with the dynamics of the game. Knowledge can easily dictate a fight’s outcome. Someone who doesn’t only know more about the game, but also knows more about PVP in the game, will win over another person who doesn’t. Proper knowledge can manipulate situation to a player’s advantage as well. Ideally, combat should be most based on knowledge and situation.
So, the first changes will be made based on the BAD things that the combatants don’t want, and the good that combatants want more of or would rather keep the same.
THE CAUSE FOR CHANGE
Very few who want to fight player versus player want to…
Wait for an inordinate amount of time. For anything. Especially in a game.
Deal with excessive corpse recovery.
Bite the bullet upon death and have to deal with setbacks in the normal routine of conquest and battle.
Spend a lot of time killing monsters.
Be forced to rely on others in order to be successful in PVP. Maybe in monster killing, NECESSARY grouping is recognized as something that drives the game. Often, though, a PVPer would rather not be limited in their fun by the availability of others. I may venture to say that many who center on PVM probably feel the same. Teamwork is good. But punishing lack of teamwork is especially bad in PVP. This means that more specialized classes like Wizards, warriors, and enchanters have to have methods of effectively going one on one without the help of someone else.
Deal with others who have the time to acquire excessively powerful loot.
Die to wild class imbalances added so players can defeat hard epic encounters.
Die to someone else because they are wildly higher level than themselves.
Die without a glimmer of a chance of succeeding when fighting back.
Have their class radically changed or have their power decreased in ways that could seriously overturn their tactics.
Lose to a tactic that has no counter
Things EQ already does well, and sometimes, could do better. Most combatants like, enjoy, or want…
Long fights, giving plenty of opportunity for thought, tactical manuevering, and more chances to exercise ability, skill, judgement, and personal knowledge. The current state of EQ pvp is good for this.
Multiple options of approach and tactics to employ in counter to tricks pulled by opponents. This field is slightly lacking in Everquest, and would be rather hard to improve without adding new content. This isn’t necessarily the most important thing on the list, but if there were ways to add complexity to battles, implementing them would be a good idea for any PVP environment.
Massive battles. Nuff’ said.
Territorial significance. I personally take vast enjoyment out of striking popular leveling areas of opposing teams and forcing them to fight for the right to continue leveling there.
A lot of the hardcore PVPers really enjoy being outnumbered or being put at a severe disadvantage, but still having just enough chance of victory to pull the proper tricks and strategies and come out on top with all the glory. Some, like myself, can’t stand a “Fair” fight and would rather be at disadvantages in most fights.
The chance to pull a “Whoa,” on someone else and come up with more clever tactics. As it is, most classes are predictable in their available strategies and tactics, and can be matched spell for spell or blow for blow by someone who has the dynamics mastered. This is another hard thing to improve: New stuff would have to be thrown into the soup for this. Despite what many think, PVP in EQ is a lot more than just hitting ‘a’, but it could still use some added complexity. UO currently rules the field with combat complexity. At least, it did before some noted changes. I won’t get into that, though.
PROTOCOL FOR MAKING CHANGES
Balancing the classes isn’t the most necessary job for POSSIBLE unrestricted combat, but for truly intriguing unrestricted combat, you need to make sure each class can match each other class in some way or another, based on player skill.
To do this though, Verant often applies the scalpel. Removing, debuffing, or reducing effectiveness of certain abilities works very well for balancing PVM interaction. This is not so for PVP. Good PVP balancing means, instead of removing the overly powerful spell that 0wnz v3r1ly, you add a counter to it. This kills two birds with one stone: You have more complexity and more balance if the changes pull through properly. Some may agree with me when I say that this is all very basic stuff, but someone has to come out and say it all eventually.
THE ACTUAL CHANGES
Now for the nitty gritty. I will list the changes, and I will list the reasons, the positive outcomes, and the possible negative outcomes, for each. Even if only half of these were implemented, any PVP server would become better. If specific ones were implemented, unrestricted PVP in everquest would be excellent.
MAJOR CHANGES. These changes would make pvp more enjoyable.
ISSUE NUMBER ONE. DOWNTIME. Downtime must be, at a minimum, cut in half. The longest anyone should have to sit, alone, is five minutes. I’m thinking a sort of “Super” meditation could be achieved when sitting still and unaffected by any debuffs or DOTs. During this state, HP regen and mana regen would triple.
1. Allow players to go into a “Super Regeneration” state after several seconds of uninterrupted concentration (With no debuffs or DOTs active.) This will triple mana regeneration, and health regeneration.
2. Allow the Healing skill to heal beyond fifty percent for all levels, and increase the HP each bandage heals.
WHY: Downtime is very bad for PVP. It reduces enjoyment by a very large degree.
POSITIVE: Players would spend more time actually playing the game, actually having fun. Fights would be more common and battle would be more intense.
NEGATIVE: Possible “Get up and fight right after death” phenomena, and similar problems. The required state of concentration with no debuffs or DOTs, would prevent players from sitting down and healing themselves halfway to full in the middle of a fight, though. Further restrictions would possibly need to be applied.
2. LEVELING. Say this were for an EQ PVP server, we wouldn’t want our players to spend more time leveling than actually pvping. As it is, this is what it is like, and it will be even more so once pvp becomes unrestricted. The level 60s will rule the battlefield, then, and that means high levels will be the only ones who will actually truly enjoy the server. That means Average Joe who wants to pvp a little bit will find himself obsolete without being at least level fifty, preferably with Kunark and in the mid fifties. Everyone else will be too busy dying. Hey, it happened on Darktide. It’d be much much worse in Everquest.
1. DOUBLE experience given by ALL mobs on death. If a 25% increase in EXP gained can be applied to dungeons by Verant, then they could apply a 100% increase in exp gained in ALL zones on a pvp server.
2. HALVE all numerical values associated with mobs statistics. HALF hitpoints, half mana, half attack/damage done, half damage done by spells, half magic resist, half EVERYTHING. Make the mobs easy to kill. To do this, all mobs could cast a spell on themselves
immediately upon spawning that would do this to their statistics.
WHY: No pvper likes to be forced to devote unnecessary amounts of time to leveling in any game to be able to compete. This would essentially make reaching the cap much faster and easier, and would leave your casual player who enjoys combat to, well, actually pvp, instead of level indefinitely.
POSITIVE: Everyone would be motivated to actually engage in player combat instead of level with the occaisional conflict. Currently, a problem seen on PVP servers are people who do nothing but level and never help their teams, simply because they feel that they’d only be of any use at very high levels. If the leveling process were sped up, this would no longer be a problem.
NEGATIVE: Literally two-week level 40’s and 50’s. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, but this does mean that the server is devoted to PVP, obviously, and not to killing monsters. If a player played to b3 l33t h1gh l3v3l on a pvp server with this ruleset, he would find him/herself quickly disillusioned and disgruntled.
3. ph4t l3wts. Everyone knows that half the reason most people play Everquest is to acquire the ultimate in equipment. Well, I have an alternative idea for this on a PVP server.
1. Remove all items designed for level 45’s and up from mobs.
2. Put all of these items on special vendors in guild halls, based on class. For sale. At extremely high prices.
3. Replace all high level mob lewt that would normally consist of those incredible items, with high amounts of platinum and/or special tokens that could be sold to vendors for high amounts of platinum
4. Watch the players fight to the death for money.
WHY: Camping, like leveling, takes a lot of emphasis away from PVP. This would totally eliminate that.
POSITIVE: This would eliminate camping, and would still make killing those high level monsters necessary. This would prevent high level territory from becoming unimportant. People would fight over high-EXP and high-money yielding creatures in those big ass hard zones. Most of those excessively hard things would become platinum mines for the insane equipment going for thousands of platinum per piece in the venders in guildhalls. This would also make money very important.
NEGATIVE: Really serious twinking problem. Possible restrictions may need to be applied to prevent really bad twinking.
Those three changes would make any PVP server a heaven that I would personally love. The following changes are less important.
The most necessary change for unrestricted PvP: SHAVING OFF THE LEVEL BARRIER. Impractical but necessary for very good PVP. Probably the hardest change to devise.
Currently a lower level will almost always die to a higher level. This would have to be changed for unrestricted PVP in EQ.
1. Make lower levels stronger (A level ten on this pvp server should be twice as strong as a level ten on a normal server.)
2. Make higher levels weaker. (A level sixty on this special pvp server would have to be half as strong as a level sixty on a normal server.)
3. Change the skill curve, HP curve, and mana curve for all classes. A level thirty here should be as strong as a level thirty on a normal PVP server, and thats where they should get more powerful very slowly.
WHY: In unrestricted PVP, without some sort of measures taken to prevent this, NO one will have the chance to get higher level due to being killed by anyone higher all the time without a chance to fight back.
Positive: This would make the perfect pvp server.
Negative: This would be excrutiatingly hard to do. Every minute detail of mob strength and the small quirks of the leveling curve would have to be changed. Unless some sort algorithm could be designed to handle all of the changes automatically. I’m not a coder, so I can’t really go into the very specifics of HOW I would make such sweeping changes to the system.
Corpse recovery. Players, upon death, could be given a small box allowing them to choose to resurrect with all of their equipment equipped already, for a fee depending on their level automatically deducted from their bank account. Five gold for someone below level ten, a platinum for someone around level fifteen, ten platinum for someone over/around the twenties.
Additions. Each class should be given a small new special ability. Not necessarily a new spell or weapon, but new vegetables to throw into the PVP soup. Wizards could be given a “Mend” skill that would apply to mana. Rogues could have a new poison or a momentary speed increase that would drain stamina (like a dash.) Enchanters could have a “Hypnotize” ability that would work for thirty seconds to totally charm anyone, with a 50% chance of resisting. Necromancers could be given an insta-charm-dead skill, a “Dark Command” or something like that. Essentially, small abilities equivalent to the Harm Touch and Lay Hands from paladins and ShadowKnights, except for every class. Even for the ones who already have something similar (Mend, for instance).
Balance. Each class, over time, should be balanced to be able to equally lose and win against other classes. This is another hard thing to do, and isn’t totally necessary for fun pvp, but it should be included on the list as well.
WHY WRITE THIS?
Well, it only took me an hour and a half, and really, I’d like to finally see a game exercise its full potential. Call me an idealist, but I think that if a few of these changes were implemented, a PVP server in EQ could truly be a fun thing. I only want to be heard, and my opinion to be seen. Maybe someone up there in Verant will take a look at this and go “Hmm, he has a point there,” about at least a couple of the issues I’ve addressed. Maybe it’ll actually change something. I can see servers operating at maximum capacity with these rules. I can see people enjoying it.
Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
If you want to discuss this, or if I missed some things, post on the discussion thread (which I’ll be reading, of course,) or e-mail me here. Thanks.
Paradox Equation, long time battle monger and strategist,
Player vs. Player interactions (PvP) are often considered the Holy Grail of online roleplaying games. The theory is that the most effective and interesting antagonists are often \’e2\’80\ldblquote if not always \’e2\’80\ldblquote the players themselves. In an ideal game, rather than the players controlling characters who are united against some common opponent, and that opponent is controlled by the computer running the game, the players work against one another, uniting only on a smaller scale. The challenges they overcome are not pre-constructed algorithms, but the actual machinations and schemes of real people, who have no more power, influence, or control over the game world than they themselves do. Players would, in participating in the game world, form all the alliances, empires, conspiracies, and plots that drive the dramatic plot. Rather than a simple extension of the traditional single-player \’e2\’80\’98roleplaying game\’e2\’80\’99 (a term used here in the understood sense, rather than the literal sense) where the player overcomes static challenges without ever truly existing in the game world, this ideal of PvP creates a new paradigm of roleplaying \’e2\’80\ldblquote one in which it is possible to view every player as actually existing in the game world, defining it, and creating it in the way a real world is created \’e2\’80\ldblquote consensually by the perceptions, actions, and interactions of all the participants.
The reality of PvP interaction is, however, far short of this ideal. In three major titles on the market, PvP is at best a pointless Nietzchean struggle for supremacy, and at worst an outlet for immature and antisocial aggressions that have no real dramatic content. In Ultima Online, the PvP experience was, for the vast majority of the players, so unpleasant that many opted out of the game, forcing Origin to compromise their original vision of the game to make PvP less and less attractive to the aforementioned immature and antisocial people. In Everquest, the design of the game \’e2\’80\ldblquote with a strong emphasis on equipment and invested time \’e2\’80\ldblquote meant that the only real reward that could be offered for PvP interactions was an unreasonable one. Players of Everquest were not willing to risk the equipment and time they\’e2\’80\’99d invested in their characters, and with greater and greater restrictions on the nature of the \’e2\’80\’98looting\’e2\’80\’99 system on the EQ PvP servers, it soon became clear that there was, in fact, no point to having a PvP system at all. Nothing could be gained by it, and so the struggles inevitably became futile. In Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, perhaps the best of the PvP implementations, real conflicts and alliances emerged, real factionalization occurred, and the events on the PvP server during the period when the game\’e2\’80\’99s primary antagonist, Bael\’e2\’80\’99zharon, was present in the game world, bear out that something special is taking place in AC. Unfortunately, even AC remains crippled by a lack of real ability to make gains, to accomplish anything lasting through PvP. Thus, as with UO and EQ, Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call\’e2\’80\’99s PvP server attracts those wishing to vent antisocial urges, rather than those wishing to create large-scale player driven plots.
Given all these problems extant with PvP systems as they currently exist, the inevitable question arises: Why PvP? Why do game companies continue to bother with this mode of interaction, if it never seems to function as intended, and often drives players away from a game? It is clear that this is a focus of modern game design \’e2\’80\ldblquote one potential competitor to these \’e2\’80\’98big three,\’e2\’80\’99 Shadowbane, considers its PvP interaction a primary selling point. Dark Ages of Camelot, another game on the horizon, has a complicated team-based PvP system, which one can only hope is more functional than the EQ team PvP system. In any case, PvP seems to have some profound attraction to game developers.
To understand this attraction, let us make a distinction between two kinds of games (of any sort, tabletop RPG, computer RPG, or multiplayer online RPG). There are Simulation games and Dramatic games. The latter type of game is, in its tabletop form, generally typified by a carefully crafted story arc, which the gamemaster gradually reveals to the players. The players are actors in a play written by the gamemaster, and while their actions have some influence over the story, there is a sense that they are still participants, not co-authors. This often makes for very exciting roleplaying, in the small and intimate environment of a tabletop game. It has been tried with some success in Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, with its monthly events, and with less success in Everquest, with its new content expanding and developing the world\’e2\’80\’99s history \’e2\’80\ldblquote although the real measure of EQ\’e2\’80\’99s success should be in its quests, given that they provide the game with its title. In this respect most players consider EQ a failure, as its quests are typically the least interesting and least rewarding part of the game (with a few major exceptions, such as the Epic Weapon quests). Dramatic games are universally similar in one way: they require constant gamemaster attention to function. When there is no gamemaster (or gamemaster surrogate, in the case of the EQ quests) the story cannot progress. The less gamemaster attention, the less interesting the dramatic storyline. How many people would enjoy a tabletop game in which they were sharing the gamemaster\’e2\’80\’99s time with a thousand other players? Yet this is precisely what the major, existing games propose to do, to make their games more exciting \’e2\’80\ldblquote more like, perhaps, the tabletop games they remember enjoying so much.
Simulation games, on the other hand, take the approach that a great fantasy world (or any other type of RPG world, actually) with dramatic conflicts and exciting interactions comes out of the people who populate it. Rather than (for instance) seeing Sauron, Saruman, and Gandalf as gamemaster mouthpieces from whom the plot is handed down, simulation proponents see these characters as actors in a realized world, the same as Frodo, Samwise, Aragorn, and the rest of the Fellowship. The plots happen, not because they have been ordained, but because they are directed by people. The chief argument for simulation games is the events of the real world, summed in the aphorism \’e2\’80\’98Truth is stranger than fiction,\’e2\’80\’99 and the chief design goal of the simulation game is to provide a coherent world in which the players can act however they see fit.
Simulation games can, and do, work. I have written and produced four large-scale weekend-long live action games, in which 30 to 50 people take on roles I have written, in a setting in which they are the protagonists and antagonists. The threat to the world comes from players. The salvation of the world comes from players. The middlemen whose loyalties are questionable are all players. Without exception, every single one of these games has been a tremendous success \’e2\’80\ldblquote in the sense that the players felt they were working against one another, not against the author or the gamemasters, and working with each other, not with the author or the gamemasters. The tension and drama of this kind of game exceeds anything one person could reasonably create alone, through a Dramatic style of game.
Before I continue to cast these things in terms of black and white, I will argue that the best game combines elements of both these approaches, and most multiplayer online roleplaying games attempt to do so, as well. For instance, in the live-action games I describe, there would be no reason for conflict were it not for the characters I wrote \’e2\’80\ldblquote the demented cultists, the inquisitive students, the mysterious powers behind the scenes \’e2\’80\ldblquote and to the extent that I wrote those characters, the game was a Dramatic game. On the other hand, once the preconditions for conflict were in place, the actual story played out according to the interests, actions, and reactions of the players themselves. The game became \’e2\’80\’98hands-off\’e2\’80\’99 for the author at that point. When the demented cultists failed to come to an accord with the immortal sorcerer who posed as a wealthy millionaire, when the students learned terrible secrets from ancient tomes that allowed them to forge alliances with the mysterious spirit wandering the school grounds, and when the world nearly ended and was saved at the last minute in a kind of Pyrrhic victory, none of this was planned, none of it was scripted, and none of it was anything but a Simulation game.
The simple truth of the appeal of Simulation style games is that the best drama comes from real motivations and emotions \’e2\’80\ldblquote and no author can match that level of involvement. Defeating the Evil Overlord is a great accomplishment, but how much greater is it when you know it was not a result of a gamemaster\’e2\’80\’99s planning, but rather your own efforts overcoming those of another player with as much vested interest in victory as you have? When another player is your enemy, the outcome is never certain.
Which leads inevitably back to PvP, and the sad fact that no PvP system in action to date has managed to capture this sense of terrible conflict. At best, PvP provides for action on a local scale \’e2\’80\ldblquote one battle, one zone, one hilltop, one town (Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, Everquest). At worst, it becomes random, pointless violence, without even a short-term goal to motivate it (Ultima Online).
How do we make PvP work for the game, rather than against it?
My contention is simple: To construct a worthwhile PvP system, you need conflict which has meaningful, lasting results, results that strike not at the players\’e2\’80\’99 characters, but at their resources. I argue that the first part is necessary to lift PvP out of the realm of \’e2\’80\’98mindless violence\’e2\’80\’99, and the second part is necessary to prevent the loss of the active roleplayers to the perception that they could become a victim, rather than an actor.
I am going to frame my conception of a functional PvP system in terms of Everquest, as it is the game with which I am most familiar. It also presents a certain challenge \’e2\’80\ldblquote the static EQ world is particularly unsuited to dramatic PvP conflict. For those not familiar with EQ, I hope that these examples remain intelligible.
Every NPC in EQ is associated with a \’e2\’80\’98faction\’e2\’80\’99. This faction determines their reactions to the players \’e2\’80\ldblquote hostility, indifference, or friendship \’e2\’80\ldblquote and is a static value. All of the dark elf guards belong to one faction, all the druids of Surefall Glade belong to one faction, all the farmers in the Karanas belong to one faction. Players can increase their standing with a given faction through killing the faction\’e2\’80\’99s enemies and completing tasks for the faction. They can decrease their standing through killing members of the faction, killing their friends, or accomplishing tasks for the faction\’e2\’80\’99s enemies. What is not generally considered, however, is that faction is a powerful tool for meaningful PvP.
Suppose that a group of PC dark elves decides, in a PvP environment, to attack the human town of Freeport \’e2\’80\ldblquote a reasonable supposition, as it happens relatively often on EQ\’e2\’80\’99s PvP servers. They mount a large force, advance to the town, and possibly meet defenders. They overcome those defenders, make their way to the city gates, and overwhelm the NPC guards, whose faction information is such that they attempt to kill dark elves. Once the gate is secure, the town taken, and the dark elves have won, what happens?
The guards reappear (\’e2\’80\’98respawn\’e2\’80\’99) with the same orders: kill dark elves. No matter how many times those guards are overcome, the supply will not diminish. The dark elves have lost before they begin \’e2\’80\ldblquote because they cannot take the town, they cannot truly declare victory. Instead they are forced to acclaim themselves victors if they keep control of the town for a short period of time \’e2\’80\ldblquote after which they leave, and the town reverts to human control.
Now imagine how this scenario should play out in a realistic world. The dark elves overcome the guards, execute the rulers of the city, and declare it a holding of their nation. Freeport becomes a new dark elf city, and humans are looked down upon \’e2\’80\ldblquote if not executed. High elves and wood elves, the traditional enemies of the dark elves, are slain on sight. The new guards hired by the ruling dark elves share their masters\’e2\’80\’99 faction views, and Freeport becomes a haven for those aligned with evil.
Let\’e2\’80\’99s deconstruct what\’e2\’80\’99s actually happening in that latter scenario: the dark elves attack, and overcome human and computer defenders. When they\’e2\’80\’99ve overcome enough of them, they make their way to some center of power, some seat of government, and take action to make themselves the new rulers of the city. While they cannot instantly sway the hearts and minds of the newly-conquered, they can take the important step of hiring new guards to replace the old \’e2\’80\ldblquote guards who are loyal to their empire, rather than to the city of Freeport. Those guards become the enforcement, in game terms, of the new regime, in the same sense that they were the enforcers of the anti-dark-elf regime that existed previously.
In other words, the major and significant game system change that occurs is an alteration of the faction of the guards.
Before continuing, let\’e2\’80\’99s ask what sorts of objections to this kind of scheme might arise \’e2\’80\ldblquote and, in fact, the objections that arise from any mandatory PvP scheme. The first, and most important, is: "I don\’e2\’80\’99t want to participate in PvP. Why should I be penalized for the success or failure of others?" The second is: "What if someone \’e2\’80\’98wins\’e2\’80\’99, conquering the whole world and leaving no opportunity for revolution and the retaking of territory?" The third is: "What about the people who want only to hide in the wilderness and kill passer-by?"
Also, as a basic premise, let\’e2\’80\’99s assume that on your character\’e2\’80\’99s death due to PvP, you suffer no loss of equipment, money, or experience. You are simply returned to your bind point, naked, and must recover your corpse, as current EQ death stands (less the experience loss). You can kill, or be killed, without any consequence to your character. I will argue that a game system can offer much more significant consequences to PvP, without the undesirable sacrifices of your time and effort inherent in any looting system.
Objection One: Non-Participation
When you create a human character in Freeport, and select as your deity one of the \’e2\’80\’98established\’e2\’80\’99 temples there, you are assumed from that point to have a certain amount of loyalty to the city of Freeport. You can, for the most part, come and go as you please, and the merchants and commoners in the city are generally friendly to you. (I am simplifying the faction situation in Freeport considerably for this example; I am well aware that it is more complex than that.) That assumption of loyalty would then make you subject to the vagaries of any PvP system which could alter the basic rules of Freeport\’e2\’80\’99s factions. Uninvolved, you might find yourself hunted, and hated, in the city where you grew up.
The obvious solution, then, is to not assume that loyalty. Rather than making one\’e2\’80\’99s loyalty to a given faction or set of factions automatic, as part of the character creation process, make this loyalty something which must be actively given. One is not a \’e2\’80\’98Defender of Freeport\’e2\’80\’99 until one chooses to be.
Let us suppose, in the center of Freeport, there is a stone. This stone, when activated, gives the player a dialogue box: "Do you wish to swear allegiance to this city?" If the player agrees, they are then flagged \’e2\’80\’98Defender of Freeport\’e2\’80\’99 \’e2\’80\ldblquote and their factions are altered to reflect this change. This system could be further refined to allow for variations in individual factions \’e2\’80\ldblquote for instance, if the player is loved by the enemies of Freeport, and hated by its defenders, through their own actions, this adjustment-through-allegiance might only make them tolerable to the defenders \’e2\’80\ldblquote and might make a character who had demonstrated loyalty through deeds loved. If we imagine faction as a 5 point scale:
Loathed \’e2\’80\ldblquote Disliked \’e2\’80\ldblquote Indifferent \’e2\’80\ldblquote Liked \’e2\’80\ldblquote Loved
then allegiance to Freeport might carry with it the alteration: \’e2\’80\’98+2 to Defenders, -2 to Enemies, +1 to Allies, -1 to Enemies\’e2\’80\’99 Allies\’e2\’80\’99. Expressed in explicit EQ terms, this might be: "+2 to Freeport Militia, Mithaniel Marr, Freeport Citizens; -2 to all Neriak factions; +1 to Qeynos factions, Faydwer factions; -1 to Troll and Ogre factions." If I began as \’e2\’80\’98disliked\’e2\’80\’99 to the Militia (not a hard thing to accomplish, given how hostile that faction is) I might become \’e2\’80\’98liked\’e2\’80\’99; if I began as \’e2\’80\’98loved\’e2\’80\’99 to the Neriak Dragoons (which seems unlikely), I might drop to \’e2\’80\’98Indifferent\’e2\’80\’99.
More importantly, I would now carry the \’e2\’80\’98I participate in PvP\’e2\’80\’99 flag, which would single me out for special attentions by the city\’e2\’80\’99s defenders \’e2\’80\ldblquote whether those be friendly or hostile \’e2\’80\ldblquote and the defenders of all the other cities.
The advantages of being a defender could be made very concrete \’e2\’80\ldblquote cheaper prices on goods within the city, access to special merchants, and possibly the opportunity to govern the city (which I\’e2\’80\’99ll get to in a few moments). The advantages of being unaligned would be immunity from the PvP conflicts and their effects on the city\’e2\’80\’99s faction.
Now we can return to our original deconstruction: what happens when the dark elves take Freeport? Presumably, they reach the stone in the center. Then, after a period of time in which only members of their group, the Defenders of Neriak, have access to the stone, there is a \’e2\’80\’98conversion\’e2\’80\’99. New faction rules are sent out to the guards. To any participant in the PvP game, these guards now exhibit the inclinations of the Neriak factions, and respond accordingly. All the benefits once available to the Defenders of Freeport are now available to the dark elf conquerors \’e2\’80\ldblquote and Freeport just became a very inimical place for the former Defenders, who will be slain by the guards if they attempt to enter.
Objection Two: Total Victory
This objection has led designers of the current crop of games to create artificial limitations on \’e2\’80\’98how far\’e2\’80\’99 PvP can go \’e2\’80\ldblquote a hard, unrealistic limitation on just how much success is permitted any one group. This is true, at least, for Dark Ages of Camelot, where the \’e2\’80\’98homelands\’e2\’80\’99 of the three competing groups will be immune from permanent conquest. This kind of limitation brings the game back to square one, though \’e2\’80\ldblquote PvP can never be genuinely meaningful if actual victory is not possible.
Let us again ask what would realistically happen if Freeport were to be conquered by dark elves. A military force takes the city, storms its seats of governance, and asserts control. A new government is appointed by the officials in Neriak, and empowered to run the city in their stead. This makes Freeport a colony of Neriak only insofar as the new government is loyal to Neriak. What happens if they get ambitions of their own? They do, after all, rule one of the largest cities in the world. What if they decide Freeport\’e2\’80\’99s best interests lie in making peace with the dwarves and halflings?
This brings us to the next requirement: the factions of a city must be ruled by the players, not the code. That means exactly what it implies: a player-run system of government, which decides through its actions what relationships the city will have with other cities.
How the government is chosen is irrelevant, although I will present a few options. Freeport is a mercantile city, and the rich likely rule; membership in the government might thus be chosen through money. He who contributes the most platinum, rules the city. Oggok, the ogre city, is a violent place, and the leaders might be chosen through battle. Neriak is a city of machinations and power struggles, and an election thus seems appropriate. Or, for simplicity, all rulers could be chosen through election \’e2\’80\ldblquote or any of the other methods, or any method at all. In the end, what matters is that there is a player, or a small group of players, who are empowered to represent their city.
Imagine an embassy from Freeport to Neriak, to establish a peace treaty. The members of the two governments meet, and sign the treaty (which could be handled, in game system terms, through a dialogue-box interface). The factions of both cities are subsequently altered to reflect this new peace \’e2\’80\ldblquote now dark elves who are participants in the PvP system can move freely in Freeport, and humans can do likewise in Neriak. Perhaps there will not be actual good will per se, but on our faction scale above, we might be moving +1 for each faction \’e2\’80\ldblquote rather than being loathed by the dark elves, a human might now be only disliked. Conversely, imagine an ambassador from the elven city of Felwithe coming to Freeport to protest this decision. He declares that unless the treaty is rejected, his people will no longer welcome those of Freeport in their lands. Freeport responds with a declaration of hostility; now elves are no longer welcome in Freeport, dropping by \’e2\’80\ldblquote 1 or \’e2\’80\ldblquote 2 on the faction scale.
In this way, the factions become representative of the player-controlled interactions at the governance level. Lest you think this would lead to sudden peace among all cities, remember that there is no reason currently for the dark elves to attack Freeport on the existing EQ PvP servers \’e2\’80\ldblquote and yet they do it anyway. Hostility and alliance come naturally with the PvP environment, and player controlled factions will only amplify this effect, not suppress it.
We can add detail to this as much as we like; trade treaties, alliances, declarations of war, declarations of mutual assistance, diplomatic incidents where a dark elf is slain by humans deep in the wilderness. For the purposes of this example, the current level of detail is enough to illustrate the next point.
What happens when the dark elves take Freeport?
They become the government of Freeport. Those conquerors are now the rulers of an independent city. When this new government is created, it shares all the treaties and factions of the current rulers of Neriak. After that point, however, they are independent. If these new rulers choose to make alliances with Qeynos and declare war on the trolls, they can do so \’e2\’80\ldblquote and if Neriak\’e2\’80\’99s government dislikes this decision, they will have to enforce their wishes militarily. In the meantime, though, doubtless scores of dark elves are moving to Freeport, switching allegiances to the new city, and through their actions becoming the new Defenders of Freeport.
What about the old government? Perhaps the former Defenders can retake the city, restore their rule. To this end, they retain their \’e2\’80\’98Old Freeport\’e2\’80\’99 defender status. If they are able to retake the city, the factions would be restored to their original state. After a period of time, though (for this example, let\’e2\’80\’99s say a week) they lose this status, and become unaligned. Perhaps they can join with the elves, or with the halflings, or Qeynos, and from there stage an assault which will give them control once more, as a colony of that empire. Their original glory, though, is lost. Or, perhaps, they would make their way to the new Freeport, and there swear allegiance to the new government, choosing to continue to serve their city even under foreign masters.
From this set of examples it becomes clear that no one city could \’e2\’80\’98win\’e2\’80\’99 by controlling the rest of the world. No matter how many cities are taken, each one remains independent, and it is only through actual player interactions that an \’e2\’80\’98empire\’e2\’80\’99 can be built. If you, the ruler of Neriak, have ten lieutenants you can trust, and you can install them as rulers of ten cities (a probably impossible task) you may have made the world safe for dark elves \’e2\’80\ldblquote but only for so long as your lieutenants remain loyal to you, and to each other. Old \’e2\’80\’98teams\’e2\’80\’99 are replaced with new, and the new \’e2\’80\’98teams\’e2\’80\’99 are the same as the old, except for the people \’e2\’80\ldblquote which is exactly as realism tells us it should be. For those displaced PvP participants who have fled their cities in defeat, there is the option of joining one of your conquered cities \’e2\’80\ldblquote or perhaps operating independently in the wilderness, acting as bandits and renegades, a resistance building its forces for a reconquest.
Which leads neatly into the next point.
Objection Three: The Banditry Problem
In addition to the city-based teams, there should be the opportunity to participate in PvP as a part of the \’e2\’80\’98no-team team\’e2\’80\’99, which is disliked by all, which has no alliances, no diplomacy. In any ancient empire, there are always discontents and the lawless at the edges of civilization \’e2\’80\ldblquote or even in its heart. In Gaul, in the Basque region of Spain, throughout the Levant, the Roman Empire faced resistance from everywhere. Its rule was never certain, and these bandits preyed on the Romans and became powerful. When Rome fell, it was not due to natural forces \’e2\’80\ldblquote it was pressure from these very malcontents, who carved the Empire up among themselves in the wake of the collapse.
In this system, a player could set themselves as a PvP participant, but not choose a city to defend. This could also happen if the player\’e2\’80\’99s city is conquered \’e2\’80\ldblquote they\’e2\’80\’99re left to wander the wilderness, either joining another city or joining the bandits. These bandits would operate in places like High Keep and the Karanas, and could strike at any member of any city\’e2\’80\’99s defenders.
The check upon this (apparently attractive, given UO as an example) option would be simply that, in addition to receiving none of the benefits of membership in a city, the bandits would receive all the penalties of being every city\’e2\’80\’99s enemy. Denied access to the resources and safety of the cities, they would never have the security of a safe place to rest, resupply, and sell their loot. For the truly antisocial killers, the people who claim that, when killing new players in Ultima Online, they\’e2\’80\’99re \’e2\’80\’98roleplaying a sociopath\’e2\’80\’99 \’e2\’80\ldblquote they would get their wish. The true sociopath would be an outcast, and that\’e2\’80\’99s exactly what these bandits would be. Inevitably, I believe these bandits would seek to seize a city for themselves, and the displaced former rulers would themselves become the new bandits.
A modification to this system would be necessary to allow a renegade to \’e2\’80\’98come into the fold\’e2\’80\’99 and join a city \’e2\’80\ldblquote perhaps the opportunity to set a \’e2\’80\’98truce flag\’e2\’80\’99 which would allow them limited entry to a city for the purposes of conversation and allegiance-forming, although not for selling, buying, or making use of the city\’e2\’80\’99s resources. This same \’e2\’80\’98truce flag\’e2\’80\’99 system would also permit the previously mentioned ambassadors from Freeport to visit Neriak for peace talks.
Summary and Conclusion
In Everquest terms, I\’e2\’80\’99m really proposing a kind of \’e2\’80\’98super-faction.\’e2\’80\’99 When active \’e2\’80\ldblquote and it would only be active by any given player\’e2\’80\’99s choice \’e2\’80\ldblquote it would supercede the normal faction system for the cities and the guards and citizens of the cities. Every NPC associated with a city would be given a new parameter: the \’e2\’80\’98super-faction\’e2\’80\’99 information, which would tell it how to interact with players who also had this parameter set. By imposing a super-faction across the world, PvP could be made to have real, lasting effects, while leaving those who wished only to \’e2\’80\’98play the game in peace\’e2\’80\’99 \’e2\’80\ldblquote a common sentiment on AC\’e2\’80\’99s PvP server \’e2\’80\ldblquote totally unaffected by the wars.
It seems to me, though, that given the opportunity to participate in something of this scale, few players would want to be left out. The added benefits of participation \’e2\’80\ldblquote whatever those are defined as, although I suggest they be aimed at merchant pricing \’e2\’80\ldblquote would convince all but the most dedicated of the powergamers to join.
The result? A system which creates a worldwide conflict, which gives players reasons to participate, which has meaningful and lasting effects, and which does not affect the characters themselves, but rather their access to resources.
And, I hope I\’e2\’80\’99ve argued, a Simulation-based plot which no gamemaster-coded static quest could ever approach.
Addendum: Mechanics of the Attack
Lord Dazin Drakenblade, level 59 Necromancer and ruler of Neriak, decides it is time to take Freeport, and wipe out the human plague to the south. He gathers his lieutenants, and announces that the attack will happen in two days\’e2\’80\’99 time, on the weekend (so that the maximum numbers of dark elves can participate). They all begin their preparations; Dazin then opens his \’e2\’80\’98City Leader\’e2\’80\’99 control window, and sees that he has 2 \’e2\’80\’98war declarations\’e2\’80\’99 left in his supply for this month. He uses one of them now, knowing that he has to declare war at least 24 hours before the actual conflict can begin \’e2\’80\ldblquote the declaration sets the Freeport Control Stone to \’e2\’80\’98vulnerable\’e2\’80\’99, meaning it will respond to his team\’e2\’80\’99s efforts. This gives the Freeport Defenders a chance to prepare for the attack. In the past, Dazin has sent declarations of war and not attacked, and he hopes the Freeport Defenders will think this is another feint, and not take it seriously. His declaration sends out a message automatically to all the Neriak Defenders: "We are attacking Freeport in 2 days."
Nyktos Spindleshriek, level 60 Cleric of Innoruk, sees the message flashing on his interface, and reads the announcement. He then sends a /tell to Dazin: "Am I leading this attack, as you promised?" Dazin replies a few minutes later: "I was hoping you would, if you\’e2\’80\’99re going to be free." Nyktos grins and tells his group he has to go /afk for a few minutes, and then starts planning strategy with Dazin and the other lieutenants over the /govern channel.
Lord Valryn Darkhammer, level 60 Warrior and ruler of Freeport, is on a Hate raid when he sees a \’e2\’80\’98message\’e2\’80\’99 icon appear on his interface. He checks with the pulling team and finds out he has a few minutes to spare, so he opens it and reads it. Probably another peace offering from the Gnomes, he thinks; he\’e2\’80\’99s been trying to get the elves to go to war with them for a month, and it hasn\’e2\’80\’99t been working. In his \’e2\’80\’98City Leader\’e2\’80\’99 control window, he sees that Freeport will be at war with Neriak in 2 days. Great, another false alarm. Well, I guess I\’e2\’80\’99d better tell people back home. He announces the war over the /govern channel, and also sends a /tell to Invidious Putrifex, a member of the Neriak Defenders, and a traitor for the Freeport cause. "Is this for real?" The answer comes back immediately. "Looks like it; Dazin just sent out the announcement, and everybody\’e2\’80\’99s talking about it like it\’e2\’80\’99s going to be a real attack this time." Damn, Valryn thinks. But he probably thinks we\’e2\’80\’99re going to ignore it again. I should keep this quiet. He sends out another announcement on the /govern channel: "Keep this quiet; let\’e2\’80\’99s surprise them." He then sends a /tell to Dazin: "Not again. Are you actually going to show up this time, or should I just let the newbies fight off your nonexistent army?" Dazin replies: "I don\’e2\’80\’99t talk to human scum. =)"
Two days later, Nyktos and 45 dark elves are in Neriak Third Gate, organizing into the teams for the raid. When they\’e2\’80\’99re ready, he gives the word, and they move out. Buffs are cast, binders are prepared, and everyone runs across East Commons to West Freeport. As soon as they zone in, the binders start binding everyone to the edge of the zone, for quick death recovery. The zone is dead silent, though, except for the occasional non-aligned person looking for a SoW or a bind. It\’e2\’80\’99s too quiet, he thinks, knowing that\’e2\’80\’99s a cliché.
Inside the gates, Valryn and the 40 Defenders he\’e2\’80\’99s picked out are observing strict silence. They hear the dark elves enter, as they all start /shouting in the Dark Speech. Good thing I had that troll teach it to me, he thinks. As the dark elves spread out and advance on the gate, Valryn gives the word, and the battle is joined.
A half hour of constant fighting later, and the defenders are starting to show fatigue. Some of the members were still bound elsewhere, and one unfortunate guy was bound all the way in Firiona Vie \’e2\’80\ldblquote he was looking for a port back, but Valryn couldn\’e2\’80\’99t spare any of the Defenders to do it for him. They\’e2\’80\’99d been pushed back to the gate, and with the guards down, Valryn knew he couldn\’e2\’80\’99t expect any more NPC help until the dark elves made it to the militia house. During official wars, the guards didn\’e2\’80\’99t respawn. A couple of newbies were standing nearby, and as he ran past them looking for a target, he hoped this would get them over to the Stone to swear in. Even folks in their teens could still distract the attackers for a few moments.
Just then Nyktos burst through the lines with one of his teams, and sprinted for the militia house. At the same time, one of the newbies sent a /tell: "Hey, my friend says they\’e2\’80\’99re coming in through the sewers in EFP, too."
Valryn sent a /govern: "Fall back to the stone; they\’e2\’80\’99re in the sewers!"
Ten minutes later, the last of the defenders were standing shoulder to shoulder in the hall outside the Stone Room in the militia house. All the NPCs were dead, and only 6 of his men were left \’e2\’80\ldblquote the rest were looting their corpses, trying to get some mana back, or running back to the fight. Once the dark elves pushed through here, it would be a tough struggle to get them out; they\’e2\’80\’99d start binding everyone to the room.
Nyktos knew he was within a few moments of victory, and personally led the final push. He knew he was no warrior, but sometimes when he got this close, he\’e2\’80\’99d pretend he was a wizard, unloading his mana in direct damage spells that weren\’e2\’80\’99t efficient, but were a lot of fun. His lieutenant, a necromancer, was summoning a new pet behind him, and on the other side, his Shadow Knight aide was getting ready to try a Harm Touch. It won\’e2\’80\’99t work, Nyktos grumbled to himself \’e2\’80\ldblquote Harm Touch almost never worked.
Valryn, barely able to type in the fighting, sent a message to his group: "need heal!"
And then the harm touch hit, and he died.
The Defenders went down a few moments later, and while the rear-guard held the hall against reinforcements, Nyktos bound himself to the room, and then clicked on the Stone in the middle. "Do you wish to declare this Stone captured?" He clicked Yes, and knew that a message was going out then to all the Defenders of Freeport: "Your stone has been captured by Neriak! You have two hours to retake it!"
Two hours. I only have to hold them off for two hours.
As his group all clicked on the stone to register themselves as captors as well, Nyktos thought about his defenses. They could let up to 5 of the Freeport scum in \’e2\’80\ldblquote once 6 Freeport Defenders had clicked on the stone, the capture attempt would fail, and the war would end. He sent tells to his raiders to keep the entrances to the Militia Building courtyard blocked, and use direct damage on anyone trying to use Levitate or Dead Man Floating to run over their heads.
Valryn saw the message and started swearing, sending /tells to everyone he could think of. The leader of Qeynos wasn\’e2\’80\’99t logged on, but the leader of Felwithe was. He promised to tell his people to get over to Freeport, and start porting defenders over as soon as he could. Valryn thought it wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t be enough. He was surprised, then, and filled with hope, when the group of 12 gnomes arrived in West Freeport, where he was waiting for a corpse recovery from a friendly Necromancer. "Hail," he said, and when the first of the gnomes started casting, he thought it was an incoming buff. And when he died, he saw a /tell from the Gnome leader, Smollet: "Guess you wish you signed that trade agreement, huh?"
Two hours later, the city belonged to Neriak. Or, more specifically, the city belonged to Nyktos and his 5 group members. Valryn and the other Defenders all got the message: "Your stone has been lost! Your team has been unseated, and you have one week to mount an attack and retake the city!"
In the Stone Room, Nyktos directed the recovery efforts and sent a message to Dazin: "Now I rule in Freeport. Let\’e2\’80\’99s talk trade agreements." On his interface window, he saw a new panel: "City Leader." When he opened it, he saw the title, "Lord of Freeport," and grinned.
In the sewers under West Freeport, Valryn sent a /govern message calling off the assaults. "We need to regroup and plan \’e2\’80\ldblquote and get some allies to help us retake the city. We\’e2\’80\’99ve got a week; let\’e2\’80\’99s make use of it." His City Leader interface window now read: "Lord of Freeport \’e2\’80\ldblquote In Exile." He knew that in a week, it would change to read "Unaligned," and his ties to Freeport would be gone. And I\’e2\’80\’99m not going to let that happen; I worked too damn hard for that city.